November 26, 2021
Never Go To Bed Angry! Good or Bad Advice? (And what to do if you and your partner can’t agree)
I was recently asked; about whether or not it’s okay to go to bed angry and I thought I’d share my notes and thoughts from the interview below.
Is there truth behind the phrase “never go to sleep angry at your partner,” or is it a myth? Why?
You may go to sleep angry at times, and that’s okay. Some feelings can be attenuated or soothed in an evening, and others may remain for some time.
The end of the day doesn’t mean a simple wrap-up of your feelings, so you may go to bed feeling upset with one another. But this doesn’t mean that you need to be fully disconnected. Can you still kiss goodnight, hold hands, snuggle or say “I love you” after an unfinished argument? This is important, as positive expressions of love can help offset the potentially negative effects of conflict.
If you are going to sleep without resolving an argument or conflict, can you let your partner know that you’re committed to working on the issue?
I’m still really upset, but I want you to know that I love you, and I do want to continue this conversation when we’re better rested.
I’m angry, and I love you. Can we set aside time to talk about this sometime tomorrow?
I’m angry, and I know that I need to calm down. A good night’s rest will help. My unwillingness to continue this conversation is an indication that I care and want to come to this conversation in a better headspace.
Is it better to hash out the argument at the moment so; it doesn’t fester overnight, or should you take a break and sleep on it to gain some perspective and perhaps calm down a bit?
It really depends on the argument. If you feel you can come to some understanding or resolution, go ahead and keep talking. If, however, you’ve been going in circles and you’re having trouble understanding your partner’s perspective, you might want to take a break and see if cooler heads and clearer minds prevail after a good night’s rest.
Oftentimes the outcome of an argument doesn’t depend on the issue or topic but is dependent upon your approach (and your partner’s).
- Are you engaging in conflict to better understand one another? Or are you engaging in order to convince your partner?
- Are you really listening to understand? Or are you just listening as you wait your turn to speak?
If you’re not really working together toward better understanding, fights can go on for days, weeks, and years. You’ll likely find that if you make a mutual understanding of your shared goal, you’ll feel more relieved (and potentially closer) after an argument.
Of course, there will be times when you feel that convincing your partner is a part of feeling understood, so we can’t dichotomize conversations or conflict into universally good and bad. For example, if you’re arguing because you don’t feel appreciated, it makes sense that you’ll want your partner to see your perspective; and it’s also possible that they do appreciate you and just aren’t showing it in a way that feels validating for you, so listening to their perspective will be helpful too.
It’s also important to note that not every conflict is resolvable. Sometimes you’ll have to let things go. If you’re arguing before bed, you might want to ask yourself if continuing the conversation will interfere with a decent night’s sleep (and potentially adversely affect your health and functioning the next day).
A good night’s sleep is positively associated with more harmonious relationships in the morning along with a host of other health benefits, so you might want to consider whether or not some shuteye will pay off more than a long conversation.
You might also want to consider the 99 rule: will you care about this issue when you’re 99 years old? Will you even remember? If not, perhaps you can let it go — at least for the night.
What if you and your partner don’t agree? One wants to stay up and hash it out, and the other can sleep easy regardless of whether or not it’s resolved.
It can be challenging if one partner wants to sleep and the other has trouble falling asleep when you’re in the middle of an unresolved argument. It can be helpful to talk about why you favour your specific approach.
If you’re the partner who can’t fall asleep, It’s okay to let your partner know that you have trouble sleeping after an argument (especially an unresolved) one, and it’s also okay to ask for their support. You might ask them to snuggle. Can you push through the conflict and remain physically affectionate? Arguments aren’t an indication of a lack of love, but they can feel that way, so look for ways to continue to be loving even if you’re arguing.
Of course, it’s not your partner’s job to meet everyone or your needs, so also ask yourself what you can do to self-soothe.
- Does deep breathing help?
- How about visualization?
- Or reading a book?
- Or a body scan?
- Or progressive relaxation.
If you’re the partner you can rest easy, communicate your feelings to your partner. Let them know that your ability to fall asleep isn’t an indication that you don’t care or are unaffected by the issue. You’re simply tired. Or perhaps you know you’ll be better equipped to face the issue after some rest.
Hopefully, you can find some middle ground (perhaps set a limit on how long you’ll talk for?) knowing that you share the same goal of improving understanding and connection.